SEAL: Sobrato Early Academic Language

Founding Story

Driven by a strong belief that school should create opportunities for all children to grow and succeed, the Sobrato family began a journey that led to SEAL's genesis. In 2008, with the Sobrato family specifically focused on improving outcomes for English Learners in San Jose and Redwood City, the Sobrato Family Foundation partnered with Dr. Laurie Olsen to design and pilot a new, comprehensive approach to learning in preschool and early elementary grades. The result of this pilot was the creation of the SEAL (Sobrato Early Academic Language) model.

After external evaluation results proved SEAL's profound impact, the model was expanded and replicated, first in the Bay Area and then throughout the state. With consistent support from the foundation over 10+ years, SEAL is now an independent organization that continues to carry forward a powerful evidence base and to support the implementation of proven practices. SEAL is now also pursuing wider goals, seeking to engage new partners in projects and activities that connect educators, researchers, advocates, and policy leaders to elevate English Learners and promote bilingualism for all students in California.

Overview of SEAL

SEAL is a powerful English Learner-focused approach to education rooted at the intersection of research and educational equity. The bedrock values are a commitment to further developing the intellectual and linguistic genius of young children’s brains, honoring the value and role of a family’s culture and language in students’ lives, and helping teachers cultivate the skills and mindset they need to become powerfully effective educators.

A 5-year evaluation of SEAL found that despite starting school with language and academic skills behind their peers, SEAL students catch up or surpass peers on all measures, from language and literacy to math and science. Major findings show statistically significant gains in language, literacy and cognition, as well as a significant impact on family literacy.

SEAL partners with educational leaders across California. The program is already in over 100 elementary schools across 21 districts, and in over 130 preschool classrooms within 24 preschool local education agencies state-wide, working to transform the system by providing professional development, curriculum support, and technical assistance for educators. SEAL is helping English Learners turn their home language into an asset.

SEAL provides a clear pathway for California to meet the vision set out by the comprehensive English Learner Roadmap policy. With 10 years of practice and research that demonstrates an effective model, SEAL fosters systems change in two ways: by continuing to transform more classrooms, schools, and districts, and by advocating for state-level changes that focus on English Learners’ needs.

Our Journey

Impact